Sunday, December 16, 2012

In search of answers: sadness at Sandy Hook

 Planting inner peace   Curtains were drawn and the lights were off. Seated at my desk, I listened as Fatima, a Russian from Ossetia, made a power point presentation to my class about the religious tensions in the region she calls home. Part travelogue and part cultural documentary, her images conveyed a country and its countryside that resembled rural America. That’s why my students and I were completely unprepared for the slide that began her last ten minutes.

There, on our six foot by four foot screen, were pictures of the dead and dying teachers and students from Beslan.  On their first day of school, traditionally a time for parents and teachers and children to celebrate the new school year, Muslim murderers from Chechnya held hundreds captive. Eventually they killed almost 200 children and teachers. [please see: Beslan school massacre remembered six years on — RT
Three days of commemorations to mark six years since the Beslan school siege got underway on Wednesday in Russia's Republic of North Ossetia. More than 300 died in ...]

Following the last slide in that traumatic set, a tearful Fatima, who was friends with a number of the victims, told us she stills asks why.

All of us wanted the same answer. I still do. In fact, I did today when I spoke to my partner. From her home, thirty-five miles from the site of the Sandy Hook massacre, she described today as profoundly “solemn” and cold in a way she’d never felt. People there were different, “considerate” in their interactions. She noted that they were never like that before at Christmas time.

“Every time I hear another story on TV,” she texted me, “tears come back.” We talked after that; she wanted to drive to Newtown but the President was on his way. We lost our connection then.

I was driving back from Hillsborough, NC. Dreary as the day was, I felt it darken. Our country had failed to stop such tragedies. As I thought of preventive measures, I clicked on a Stones CD and lost my composure when I heard “Fool to Cry.” After the first few lines, I was in tears as I imagined a father explaining to his child on his knee that this massacre had happened. [the rolling stones - fool to cry original - YouTube
Sign in to add channels to your guide and for great recommendations! Sign In › This video contains content from Eagle Rock and EMI Music Publishing, one ...]

I didn’t hear the rest as I sensed an enormous emptiness, a compelling grief I couldn’t ignore. Pictures of the slaughtered children came to mind; I thought of my own, lately under attack in Israel.

At least I knew what the Israelis did. Was theirs the right answer? Many would argue against their preparedness.

I can’t. When I attended services at my host’s synagogue while visiting Israel’s West bank, I noticed that there was always someone with their sub machine gun praying near me. It rested on the floor like an unopened briefcase. Although it made me aware that trouble was a possibility, I also felt more secure in knowing that, if it came, all of us would have a fighting chance.

That wasn’t the case at the Sandy Hook school. I wondered why there weren’t double doors with metal detectors and bulletproof windows. Why weren’t there locks that worked automatically when an alarm registered? Why was there more than one entrance? And why was it unsecured?

I felt like screaming. Our children deserve to be protected regardless of laws allowing or disallowing firearms, specifically automatic weapons. That debate may be too lengthy to prevent another massacre.

It is past time to focus on concrete measures, on real prevention and necessary security. Some have lamented that much less harm would have come had only one administrator had a weapon. []But that idea may be bandied about too. And for too long.

That’s too bad. It works, out of necessity, in Israeli schools.

Now is the time for our leaders to act as leaders must; it is the time for our counselors to enable us to mourn and grieve and acknowledge our deeply wounded psyches and, especially, those of our children.

As for the rest of us who are numb and tearful, but desirous of expressing our sympathy, please consider joining me in creating a lasting and meaningful marker of Newtown’s terrible loss. Together, we can create a memorial forest, in memory of the Sandy Hook School, in Israel.    

What I hope we can do will be to plant ten trees for every teacher and student we lost on Friday. Please consider committing to that.

Our trees for them will grow and their growth will, hopefully, be a healing force, a guide for and a reminder of our thoughts and our prayers.

By doing that, our little ones and their teachers will never be forgotten.

                                                B.Koplen 12/16/12

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